31 August 2020

Temporary COVID-19 ED takes shape despite cases falling away

| Ian Bushnell
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Temporary ED

The temporary emergency department construction site last Friday. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT’s temporary COVID-19 emergency department is taking shape on Garran Oval and is on target to be complete by mid-May.

The ACT Government contracted local company Aspen Medical to build and operate the facility at a cost of $23 million earlier this month when concerns were high that the ACT’s hospital system would be overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases if the virus spread through the Canberra population.

Since then, social distancing and other containment measures have reduced the presence of the virus in Canberra to virtually zero, with only two active cases isolating at home with ACT Health support.

But the government and health officials remain vigilant due to fears of a second wave of COVID-19 cases in the winter, particularly if restrictions are eased.

Garran ED

Garran Oval was selected because of its proximity to Canberra Hospital. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

“While we are seeing a decrease of confirmed cases in the Territory, we are continuing with plans for this facility to ensure we are prepared and well-resourced should we see an increase in cases,” an ACT Health spokesperson said.

Sited close to the Canberra Hospital campus for the fast and easy transfer of patients, work on the facility began on 9 April but the model of care and number of staff required at the facility is still to be determined.

When the 50-bed facility, including six resuscitation beds, was announced, Aspen Medical said it would need about 200 staff.

Aerial shot of the ED

An aerial shot of the site early in the construction. Photo: ACT Government.

The spokesperson said the ED remained a temporary facility and would only take patients with COVID-19.

”The facility will only be in place while the ACT is in a state of public health emergency,” the spokesperson said. “It will be removed, and Garran Oval will be fully restored once the state of health emergency is stood down.

”This facility has been built specifically to expand our capacity and enhance our ability to respond to COVID-19.”

The pre-fabricated, steel, rectangular structure is being manufactured off-site and then assembled on a concrete slab before being fitted out.

Constructing the ED

The pre-fab steel makes for quick construction. Photo: ACT Government.

It will be connected to the hospital via covered walkways.

Aspen Medical made its name globally providing rapid response medical services in many different locations, some remote and in epidemic situations, such as the African ebola outbreak.

The ACT Government has funded the $23 million project to the end of July, but Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says it will continue operating after July if required.

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Welcome to the ACT where classrooms have no kids.
Buses run with no passengers.
A $23m facility is built for no patients.
Rates rise with no relief.
And voters have no alternatives.

So you think the ACT should be moved to the moon? Because frankly you just described the Same basic situation that every state and territory in this country is facing. In fact I will go one further and say The best part of the first world.

The only saving grace for us in Australia and the ACT of course is the hospital isn’t full to overflowing. That is something to be applauded not turned into a cheap political shot. The fact the hospitals are so empty is thanks to the policies and effort put in by the PM, the federal government and all state and territory leaders as well as the vast majority of the population who have removed their tin foil hats and their party political blinkers.

Oh did I just praise a liberal PM and liberal premiers? Yep I did in the circumstances what they have done thus far have saved our bacon. As I said now isn’t the time for cheap political shots at any pollie. (Except maybe Trump).

Anyone that can’t see the need for this ED is blind. We are still at a huge risk of Coronavirus that needs appropriate planning by health authorities.

They have done well in increasing capacity, which is part of the reason we will be able to reduce restrictions.

Capital Retro9:35 pm 01 May 20

I’m sure most of us are familiar with that episode of Yes Minister where Jim Hacker visits the most efficient hospital in Great Britain.

On the bright side, it’s a lot cheaper than a desalination plant.

It will probably be a waste of money.
But I’d prefer to spend money on it and then find it wasn’t required than to call a halt to it and suddenly be hit by a new wave or Coronavirus resulting in people dying because we don’t have suitable facilities.

It’s a bit like car or house insurance. Usually a waste of money but suddenly essential if we ever do need it.

The people of the ACT should be outraged that their ever increasing rates are being wasted on this $23m white elephant. There are no cases in the ACT and our existing hospitals have plenty of spare capacity to handle any severe cases that may occur. The only ones benefiting from this unnecessary extravgence are the building contractor and the Aspen medical corporation.

Bull dust. As many posts have said this is an insurance policy and if the government didn’t built it and it was required there would be howls of outrage from people such as yourself that enough was not done.

As for the cost, the bulk of the funding is coming from Federal Government as part of the National COVID19 response. Other states have received similar funding to ramp up their hospital systems.

Capital Retro9:39 pm 01 May 20

Isn’t $23 million the same amount the ACT government has paid to get an out of town football club to play a few games in Canberra for the past nine years to appease just few thousand fans?

That is definitely a white elephant.

Other states have spent money on their hospitals and are not using school ovals to treat patients.

Jason Waight5:52 am 01 May 20

Many cities have these stand by facilities in mothballs for excess demand.

How many more $millions will it cost to keep this facility (with a “yet to be determined” model of care) open when the contract expires in July?

Clearly the A.C.T. government has plans to use the green space after they realise this 23 million dollar tent isn’t money well spent.
Bet ya building permissions have begun already. (Carpark, medical staff residencies, townhouses)
Bye bye Garran oval!!

Seeing as they are the government if they did have grand plans like that they wouldn’t need to use a temporary field hospital as an excuse. Time to give the conspiracy theories rest.

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